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Mosquito

Caesar - personality

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Forgive me my poor english. I know its far from being perfect as it was stressed before by one of members but Im right now starting new topic - the first since I joined this forum. I hope that inspite my poor english, most of you will be able to understand what I mean and what Im asking for.

 

Like many of you I have read many biographies of Gaius Iulius Caesar, I have seen many movies in which actors were playing his role and have read many books including Shakaspare's drama and many novels.

All of this didnt help me even a little bit. The more i read, the bigger mystery he is. I still cant feel (maybe it is some kind of lack in my intelect and imagination) or imagine - what kind of man Caesar really was. I have read first books wich were concerning his character about 20 years ago (now Im 31). I have read his own works about gallic war and civil war. It didnt help even a little bit. You all cant even imagine how much Im happy, that I found this forum and can give you this question. Most of you - like me - have read many books concerning his personality. But after all I have read and have seen, I still cant see the real man behind the picture he and his legal descendants have created.

I see the God! I see the image created by his own or Augustu's propaganda. Divus Iulius! Divine and perfect man.

We all know that he was very lucky. We all know that he was a genius. Even his enemies addmitted it. Incrediblly inteelingent, great orator, outstanding lawyer and politician. General with whom only few in the history could have compared themselves. Many people even of the highest class didnt feel well in his company because felt inferior, less intelligent or were afraid of his sarcasm and malice. As a youngster he has defeated the pirates. Even Cicero so called greatest orator and lawyer of ancient Rome admired his skills showned in the courts and senate. Even Cato didnt deny his greatness but made idee fixe of his life to defeat this man - and failed.

In my opinion - we cant call him just an ambitious man, the tyrant without vision. For sure he wanted to improve Roman Republic. Noone can say that Caesar was just a power hungry maniac.

 

But all of this dont give us the picture of Caesar as person. Dignitas and auctoritas - certainly it was somthing he was looking for. Power? - surelly. But was it power wich he wanted to get only to feed his ambition?

 

I afraid that most of people who write biographies or make movies about him are seduced by his personality even 20 centuries after his death and fail to catch him as a man. In most of cases we dont see real Caesar but we see the personality wich Caesar created and presented as his. When Im reading the biographies of Alexander or Napoleon it is much easier for me to see their personality, even inspite of the fact that Alexander lived earlier,

I find HBO TV series Rome as a very original and interesting attempt to portray Caesar but i feel that it has failed as well.

 

So Im asking all of you ancient history lovers, please tell me. How do you see Caesar's personality? When you read novels or dramas about him, can you indentify yourself with his character? I know that most of you admire him when you are reading his biographies. But are you admiring the real person or the semi- God character - looking like Jesus Christ, perfect man?

Edited by Mosquito

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Dear me... I have just got home from the pub, and found this very fertile topic before my drunken eyes and it appears I am the first to stumble upon it. It is my honour Mosquito, and your English is far better than my Polish, or even the French I claim to speak with a degree of fluency. No matter.

 

What drew me to this topic is, I am a psychiatric nurse by profession, and I have often thought that Caesar showed many characteristics of a person with a personality disorder (in other words, psychopath), of the Narcissistic type. In my experience, such people (ancient AND modern) are often highly intelligent, attractive, highly motivated and have great charisma. They also have great faith in their own abilities, enjoy being the centre of attention, are good at criticising but are unable to accept criticism, and are very good at 'holding court' to an audience. They broadcast their own successes, but are oblivious to the fact that their successes are due to the contribution or sacrifice of other individuals.

 

They also exaggerate their abilities, but are careful to make these exaggerations plausable, and in keeping with their background and history. They are drawn to the mystic and paranormal, and often ascribe ordinary events - for example, the flight of birds such as swallows and owls - as having particular significance to themselves. They are unable to form stable relationships. They often blame the failings of their loved ones on psychological problems, or 'problems of the mind', yet themselves display the characteristics of which they make complaint.

 

In the case of Caligula, who made his horse consul, they may even give greater regard to animals or 'pets' than to fellow humans - although, in Caligula's case, we may be looking at a psychotic, rather than an individual with a personality disorder. They may claim they have divine, or 'psychic' status. People who know them at a superficial level find them entertaining, interesting and the 'life and soul of the party', and are quite willing to accept criticism from such people when aimed at themselves and others, in the belief that these people must be right, because their self confidense dictates it. People who know them intimately find them domineering, bullying, emotionally cold and exploitative.

 

These people show a ruthless side to their character, in that they will extract great tribute from a subordinate person (such as Vecingetorix,) and allow them to aid their cause directly or indirectly, often at great financial and material expense to themselves. The victims always believe that the more they give, the less they will be oppressed. This never works, however. Eventually, the oppressor always finds an excuse to destroy her/his enemy, whilst gaining immensely in terms of territory or property, and then claim that it was the fault of the 'enemy' in the first place. Then, they move on to more fertile territory.

 

Historically, of course, such people often end up being murdered in forums, their personalities exposed. Happily, in modern life, often their histories catch up with them, and they themselves may eventually seek therapy for their continuing tendency to cause hurt and distress. Often, these things may have been brought to their attention several times, but their lack of ability to criticise themselves and their actions may have led them to believe that references to their own behaviour were aimed at others.

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What drew me to this topic is, I am a psychiatric nurse by profession, and I have often thought that Caesar showed many characteristics of a person with a personality disorder (in other words, psychopath), of the Narcissistic type. In my experience, such people (ancient AND modern) are often highly intelligent, attractive, highly motivated and have great charisma. They also have great faith in their own abilities, enjoy being the centre of attention, are good at criticising but are unable to accept criticism, and are very good at 'holding court' to an audience. They broadcast their own successes, but are oblivious to the fact that their successes are due to the contribution or sacrifice of other individuals.

 

They also exaggerate their abilities, but are careful to make these exaggerations plausable, and in keeping with their background and history. They are drawn to the mystic and paranormal, and often ascribe ordinary events - for example, the flight of birds such as swallows and owls - as having particular significance to themselves. They are unable to form stable relationships. They often blame the failings of their loved ones on psychological problems, or 'problems of the mind', yet themselves display the characteristics of which they make complaint.

 

 

In other words you say that an extraordinary person, an outstanding person, someone who is better than others - in case of Caesar - in politics, on the battlefield, as the lawyer in the court, as the orator, as the writter - cant be normal and need cure?

 

I wont discuss Caligula's case here because it is different topic and there are also some different more controversial modern theories about his personality, claiming that it wasnt madness but clever strategy to lower the rank of senate and the dignity of senators.

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I basically agree with Northern Neil's assessment. From the sources I've read, it seems that Caesar had a sense of entitlement, superiority, recklessness, power-lust, and vanity that today we'd call narcissism.

 

If we don't care for the clinical comparison, though, a more philosophical archetype might be Nietzsche's ideal man, who considered himself "beyond good and evil" and whose greatness could only emerge in a violent struggle for power against the mediocre and jealous. (The best literary analogue to Caesar might be the character Gail Wynand in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.)

 

Viewed from this perspective, I don't think there's anything contradictory about the idea that Caesar may have had a genuine desire to improve Rome: if he could add to the glory of Rome, so much more to his own glory--as long as he was properly rewarded, honored, fawned over, and given more power for doing so. Of course, when Caesar felt that he wasn't being sufficiently appreciated (or--gasp!--prosecuted), then he was perfectly happy to put his own 'dignitas' (read: superiority complex) above the republic, above the laws, above the people, even above his own soliders' lives.

 

Viewed from this perspective, there's also nothing contradictory about the idea that Caesar had immense capability. Indeed, for a talented patrician child raised among the dregs of the subura and continually flattered by a house full of women, it's hard to imagine how one wouldn't have a sense of superiority. But the whole Roman system was built around the principle of collegiality constraining any one person from gaining kingly power--and so Caesar (like many other patricians) found himself headlong in conflict with the system.

 

Viewed from this perspective, there's also nothing so logical than Caesar's joy at leading an army, free from the constraints of others, obeyed without question, possessing powers that no ordinary magistrate could possess within the pomerium. Only problem for the republic was that Caesar--after eight years of near regal rule--would have been forced to lay down those powers once he returned to Rome, and nothing in Caesar's character would have welcomed the prospect.

 

In my view, personalities are seldom history-making factors (i.e., I'm no fan of the Great Man school of history), but in Caesar's case, it's hard to dream up a personality and background that was more likely to come into conflict with the republican constitution.

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I tend to agree with NN and MPC's comments, nobody can deny thast Caesar was a great general, politician, statesman and orator but there was also the other side to him, the ruthless, vicious, self obssessed side which certainly points to the personality disorder highlighted by NN, They do say that there's a fine line between genius and insanity, maybe Caesar was bordering on this?

 

http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2007/02/int...nd_insanity.php

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.... I have often thought that Caesar showed many characteristics of a person with a personality disorder (in other words, psychopath), of the Narcissistic type. In my experience, such people (ancient AND modern) are often highly intelligent, attractive, highly motivated and have great charisma. They also have great faith in their own abilities, enjoy being the centre of attention, are good at criticising but are unable to accept criticism, and are very good at 'holding court' to an audience. They broadcast their own successes, but are oblivious to the fact that their successes are due to the contribution or sacrifice of other individuals.

 

They also exaggerate their abilities, but are careful to make these exaggerations plausable, and in keeping with their background and history. They are drawn to the mystic and paranormal, and often ascribe ordinary events - for example, the flight of birds such as swallows and owls - as having particular significance to themselves.

 

 

Some modern psychologists may call this a personality disorder. In ancient Rome, most people, especially among the power elite, would have called this normal cultural values.

 

Caesar's quest for glory, fame, power and legacy, and his faith in his own abilities (and his own perception of his family's supernatural origins and destiny) differed from the average Roman patrician only to the extent to which is was plied. Caesar's boasting of his descent from Venus was considered excessive by his peers, but he was not considered inherently dangerous or crazy because of it - such things are ultimately sanctioned by a pre-Christian worldview.

 

To judge the historical and cultural context in which Caesar's personality operated, I think we have to throw out some of the "moral" presumptions of the modern world forged by mainstream religions, philosophies and psychological analysis.

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Some modern psychologists may call this a personality disorder. In ancient Rome, most people, especially among the power elite, would have called this normal cultural values.

Since the Romans lacked many of our modern medical concepts, it's not surprising they failed to recognize a personality disorder when it was punching them in the face. But I do disagree that the Roman "power elite" regarded Caesar as exhibiting normal cultural values. There were normal cultural values against having statues of yourself put inside temples with the inscription "To the Invincible God". There were normal cultural values against having your own face put on state money. There were normal cultural values against sleeping with your neighbor's wife (and foreign Kings). There were normal cultural values against much of Caesar's early life of debauchery with the Clodian fast-set (even Catullus thought Caesar was over-the-top), and there were certainly normal cultural values against Caesar's late-life delusions of deity.

 

Caesar's quest for glory, fame, power and legacy, and his faith in his own abilities (and his own perception of his family's supernatural origins and destiny) differed from the average Roman patrician only to the extent to which is was plied. Caesar's boasting of his descent from Venus was considered excessive by his peers, but he was not considered inherently dangerous or crazy because of it - such things are ultimately sanctioned by a pre-Christian worldview.

You seem to be forgetting that Caesar not only claimed to be descended from gods, he also fostered a cult to himself as a god. And Caesar's megalomania most certainly was considered dangerous by many Romans, and there was nothing in the Roman world-view that sanctioned such behavior. Rome wasn't Nietzsche-ville; it was the city that rose in defiance of kingly power, and it exacted savage punishment on those (like the son of T. Manlius Torquatus) who broke its laws.

 

You may not appreciate the precepts of Stoicism, Ursus, but it was the dominant world-view in Rome, espoused by everyone from slaves like Epictetus to emperors like Aurelius. If you would consider Caesar from the Stoic perspective, you would realize why Caesar was reviled by educated Romans and why his killers were celebrated by the very "power elite" you suspect to have lauded Caesar.

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I agree with MPC that many of Caesar's antics were in opposition to some Roman conventions, and I am sure that aspects of his behaviour were deemed outrageous by many. I expect he was seen as being mentally unstable by some. I do not believe, however, that to become a great leader a degree of mental instability is neccesary, to answer Mosquito's earlier question. Take Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill, for example. Pertinax would probably have been a similar figure given the chance.

Edited by Northern Neil

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Winston Churchill was an alcoholic.

 

On the other hand, if Caesar really was a genius who understood that Roman Republic cannot work any longer in the way it was working in the past. Not after Marius and Sulla, not after Pompey. If he belived that he knows better what to do even when the ruling class of Rome couldnt see it. It was the ruling class of Rome that drove Rome into social war with Italians. It was rulling class of Rome that was injustly treating people in the Roman provinces and all the allies of Rome. It were people like Cato who were so conservative that could have not accept any change, even good change. Unlike most of them Caesar had somthing to offer. And what happend in the end? Caesar was condemned for the same things for wich Augustus was praised. The difference was that Caesar wasnt use to murder his political opponents like Augustus did.

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To judge the historical and cultural context in which Caesar's personality operated, I think we have to throw out some of the "moral" presumptions of the modern world forged by mainstream religions, philosophies and psychological analysis.

 

Thank you, Ursus. This whole discussion is spurious. One cannot apply modern psychoanalytical concepts to a person in the ancient world, and any attempt to do so is fruitless. That way, madness lies.

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In my opinion:

Caesar's claims to godly descent and deity were for the consumption of the polloi. No one of consequence 'believed' the 'god' quackery extant then. To glorify one's self was the Roman way in those times. Cicero! The man at Alesia a psycho? The man who wrote the Gallic Wars a blooming psycho? Then Augustus must have been a nut case also - a god in the provinces.

 

Psycho analysing a man from two millenia away! Call for telequack, senator frist!

 

Retro-telecyber analysis!

 

Slaves in the fields and mines were Stoics?

Edited by Gaius Octavius

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One cannot apply modern psychoanalytical concepts to a person in the ancient world, and any attempt to do so is fruitless. That way, madness lies.

 

Really? So no one in the ancient world was schizophrenic? No one in the ancient world was depressed? No one in the ancient world had anxiety? Or a nervous breakdown? Did you ever read about Bibulus' complete breakdown after the murder of his sons? In describing Bibulus, should we resort to quaint Victorian concepts like "melancholy"? Are we to assume that Elagabalus was just having a "bad day"?

 

This isn't directed to Augusta, but it would also help immensely to actually get the concepts right rather than putting words into Neil's mouth. He never claimed that Caesar was "insane": insanity isn't a psychological concept, it's not even a psychoanalytic concept, it's a legal concept.

 

I understand that some of you are fans of that darling of Venus, but to think that Caesar is not only beyond the realm of normal moral judgment but also beyond the realm of even medical judgment, that's taking special pleading to a whole new level.

 

Now, I admit that Neil's identification of Caesar with narcissistic personality disorder is less than certain. But there is a massive gulf between uncertainty and absurdity, and Neil's claim is only uncertain, not absurd. It's uncertain, too, whether Caesar died due to a slow exsanguination or not, but the hypothesis isn't absurd--like mental disorders, exsanguination exists, it must have existed in the ancient world, and although it's difficult to diagnose from the present, it's possible. Mosquito asked for guesses, and he got one.

 

Slaves in the fields and mines were Stoics?

 

Who the heck knows, and who cares? I pointed out that Epictetus, a slave, and an emperor, Aurelius, were both Stoics, indicating that Stoicism was a philosophy that appealed to a broad cross-section of Roman society. To read this as "All slaves were Stoics" is just dumb.

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Since the Romans lacked many of our modern medical concepts, it's not surprising they failed to recognize a personality disorder when it was punching them in the face.

 

Yes, but qualities NN listed as a psychological disorder were still shared to some extent by the Roman aristocracy, and indeed by most of the pre-Christian aristocracies in the greater Indo-European world that I am aware of.

 

We could say then one of three possibilities

1) Pre-Christian concepts on such things are outdated or immoral as per modern sensibilities

2) Pre-Christian concepts on such things are valid, and modern sensibilities are the ones in error

3) Relativism applies, and every culture and age has its own internal set of values that are not externally applicable.

 

I would take a stance somewhere between 2 and 3.

 

Caesar's "crimes" along these lines were ones of degree, not of substance. Vainglory was not in and of itself wrong - it was that Caesar merely took it beyond normal social limits (but then given Caesar's extraordinary gifts his vainglory was more than empty posturing).

 

 

 

You may not appreciate the precepts of Stoicism, Ursus, but it was the dominant world-view in Rome, espoused by everyone from slaves like Epictetus to emperors like Aurelius.

 

Stoicism held a certain influence in educated circles (and Epictetus was an educated slave of Greek extraction), but calling it the dominant worldview is a bit of a stretch. The central Roman cultural value that held Roman civilization together for its many long centuries was the dignitas and auctoritas one derived from military victory and political administration. That was what motivated the upper classes in relation to the rest of society. Even Aurelius spent most of his career soldiering. It was that and not the soporific musings of the Stoa that built the Roman Empire. I know you're a Hellenophile, but I think you overestimate the effects of Greek philosophy on the deepest Roman cultural values.

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On the other hand, if Caesar really was a genius who understood that Roman Republic cannot work any longer in the way it was working in the past. Not after Marius and Sulla, not after Pompey. If he belived that he knows better what to do even when the ruling class of Rome couldnt see it.

 

Gee, I wonder how many statesmen believed that they knew best what society needed and would have liked to cram their reforms down everyone else's throats? Probably many. Perhaps that's why societies develop LAWS and GOVERNMENT so that competing ideas can be enacted without violence and bloodshed?

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